New York State’s Largest Wildlife Management Area Will Expand Through Land Trust Partnership
The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) announced the acquisition of 66 acres directly adjacent to Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area in the town of Newfield, Tompkins County. Connecticut Hill encompasses more than 11,000 acres of undeveloped land southwest of Ithaca and is the largest wildlife management area in the state.
The FLLT purchased the property from Walter Cogswell of Schenectady, NY. After fleeing Germany during World War I, Walter’s grandfather settled in Newfield and bought the land in 1921. Walter’s mother and her three siblings were raised there in a plank house during the Great Depression. In 1983, Walter took ownership of the property, but he eventually relocated to the Hudson Valley.
Since the property had been in his family for 100 years, Walter was committed to keeping the land undeveloped. “I spent many days of my childhood exploring the property, helping split firewood, jumping from the haymow, picking beetles off the potato plants, and drawing pails of water from the dug well for use in the house and garden,” he said.
The property features a mix of fields and forests, wetlands, and more than 4,000 feet of road frontage. The Land Trust intends to transfer the land to the state as an addition to Connecticut Hill when funds become available.
Conservation of this property will expand the 11,237-acre Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area and prevent future subdivision that would fragment wildlife habitat connectivity and disrupt recreational opportunities. With elevations reaching 2,000 feet, Connecticut Hill is a popular destination for hunting, hiking, birding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. In total, Connecticut Hill contains approximately nine miles of designated hiking trails, and many more miles of dirt roads and access lanes. Recognized as one of the state’s Important Bird Areas, Connecticut Hill is host to a wide variety of songbirds, as well as wide ranging mammals such as fishers and black bear.
Connecticut Hill is also an important component of the Emerald Necklace, a proposed greenbelt linking 50,000 acres of existing conservation land in an arc around Ithaca, from the Finger Lakes National Forest in the west to the Hammond Hill State Forest in the east. The Emerald Necklace is recognized as a priority project within New York State’s Open Space Plan and is a conservation priority for the FLLT.
By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 25,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of 35 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 150 properties that remain in private ownership.
The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and local residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.
Information on the region’s premiere destinations for outdoor recreation, including Connecticut Hill, may be found at www.gofingerlakes.org, a resource created by the FLLT to encourage people to get outdoors. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at www.fllt.org.